Those honors have helped draw customers from all over Oklahoma, as has a consistent schedule of ads in The Oklahoman. Shaun concedes that the ads are a bit costly, and that most smaller to mid-size dealers probably couldn't afford them. But as O'Connor's has grown, the ads have become an important part of the dealership's strategy to face the big boxes head on.
"I don't think consumers really care where they buy from," Shaun says. "They don't necessarily want to buy from Home Depot or Lowe's. But they walk in and feel comfortable because it looks and feels like a reputable retailer. It's what most consumers are used to."
The O'Connor family's strategy to get consumers to view its store in the same way starts from the highly traveled road separating the dealership from the extremely busy Quail Springs Mall, not to mention Home Depot and Sears who are directly across the street. Lowe's and Super Wal-Mart are both within a mile.
Shaun says he loves their location. When Home Depot moved in a year or so ago, Shaun didn't panic like some dealers might. In fact, he began to lick his chops. "I knew people would come over here after they'd been to Home Depot," Shaun tells. "We just needed to give them a reason to want to."
Keeping up with volume
O'Connor's didn't have trouble coming up with a few reasons, much less one. You can chalk it up to wide selection, low prices and great customer service. Shaun says it all hinges on smart inventory management.
As the business has grown, O'Connor's Lawn & Garden has had to move four times, most recently in 1995 to its present location. The showroom was expanded to 10,000 square feet in 2003. The parts and service departments have also been expanded over the years.
Most recently, the covered outdoor storage area underwent a little makeover. In spring 2006 the flat, 10-foot-high roof was taken off. A sloping roof was put in its place, allowing crates to be stacked 15 to 23 feet high. It's an impressive sight from the street. "It legitimizes us in the eyes of the average consumer who's under the impression that places like Home Depot are what a retailer should look like," Shaun says.
Perhaps more importantly, additional storage space means O'Connor's can take on more inventory at a time, which helps the dealership keep up with demand. Keeping up with volume has been the biggest challenge over the years.
O'Connor's Lawn & Garden likes to place big orders, which helps earn more margin points. Sometimes the savings is passed on to the customer in order to keep the dealership's pricing competitive. Shaun says he doesn't fret over a couple points when a unit is basically ready to go right out of the crate/box. He's more concerned with closing the sale and turning the inventory.
"If something hasn't sold in two months, it's been sitting too long," Shaun says. "We like to keep one of every model on the sales floor. When we sell something, we get it from the storage area and set it up. The floor model stays in the showroom. The customer usually doesn't mind waiting a while for us to set their unit up. They know they're not going to find a better deal anywhere else; and by deal I mean a good price and even better service."
Kill them with competence
Dealers are told time and time again to "sell their service" because that's what sets them apart from the box stores. Shaun says O'Connor's has been selling its
service department for many years. "That's really a no-brainer," he adds. "We're trying to take the concept of service to the next level."
The first step is getting patrons to feel comfortable. Customers enter the dealership through automatic sliding doors. Lawn ornaments, chemicals and other garden supplies are merchandised on shelves directly to the left. Kites, garden flags and windsocks hang on the wall to the right and from the ceiling above. (See "Taking The Edge Off" for more on this segment of the business.)
The parts department is straight ahead, clearly marked by a large banner touting its "award winning" status. Just before you enter the parts room, two or more customer service representatives work the sales counter answering phones, ringing up sales and helping customers fill out credit applications.